Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 258 of Stagworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stagworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. If you want to support Stagworthy consider dropping some change in the virtual tip jar, you can find a link to that in the show notes. Your support helps me continue to bring you great conversations in Canadian theatre. You can find stage really on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @stageworthypod, and you can find the website with the archive of all 258 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @PhilRickaby. And My website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is actor Emerjade Simms.

I mean, this is like one of those loaded questions that we ask each other now but how are you doing?

Emerjade Simms
Today, right now I am rested and hydrated. And that is a lot for today. And that’s good for me.

Phil Rickaby
That is good for that is good. There have been days when I have been neither. So that’s a pretty good spot to be in what have you been keeping yourself busy these days,

Emerjade Simms
I have been sleeping a lot to be honest with you. I’ve also been slowly getting into a yoga practice of sorts, and but kind of just trying to chill out and breathe and be a person.

Phil Rickaby
That’s interesting, because in some ways the the theatre treadmill doesn’t allow us to do that very often to just sort of sit in stillness and just like be for a while.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, it’s hard to do that when you’re constantly auditioning and running around the city and rehearsing. So this six months of time has been different, but I think helpful in you know, figuring out who I am and what I’m about and what I stand for. So it’s been it’s been nice, but also terrifying. And but also nice.

Phil Rickaby
Have you have you learned anything about yourself that you didn’t know before?

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, I have. And it’s mostly how I operate around other people and the things that I have accepted in the past that I think are unacceptable now. So it’s been, it’s been a lot of reexamining my relationships with people. Which has been, like I said, terrifying, but I’m also kind of rewarding and kind of relieving in some instances, because then I don’t have to deal with certain people anymore. Because I’ve said so.

Phil Rickaby
Well, that that is that is that is something that we get to do is to is to decide who’s just too much effort.

Emerjade Simms
Yes, you know, after it indeed,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. I’m now one of the things that I’d like to talk about is the theatre origin story, like what is it? That that made you decide to pursue theatre? What was your first theatre experience? Tell me your story.

Emerjade Simms
Oh, man, we have to go all the way back to kindergarten.

Phil Rickaby
I love those stories. Tell me tell me.

Emerjade Simms
And the thing is, I don’t even really remember it. But I have photo evidence that it happened. So it must have been a recital at the school next door that had a stage. And I was I was prone to wearing this one outfit. It’s a yellow outfit. Top and bottom with a white top. And I got to dress up as as an ice cream cone. So that’s where it started. And I must have been comfortable on stage. Because I didn’t seem uncomfortable in those photos. And there were lots of them cuz my parents were really proud apparently. So yeah, I think it started there. And then like, My first memory of being thrilled by the prospect of theatre was probably when I, one of my church sisters who was older than me, so she was like my mentor, my teacher. She got tickets to the Lion King at the Princess of Wales theatre. And I think I was around seven or eight at this point. And I had never been to a play before that. So that was my first theatre experience and when I was watching all of them dancing On stage, I was like, Oh, I can do that. I want to do that. And I think that’s when I kind of like made a concrete decision of. I definitely made a concrete decision of needing to be in the arts, but I didn’t make a concrete decision about acting. Hmm. So that decision came later.

Phil Rickaby
I have worked in front of house a few times and at one point for a few years, and one of my favourite things is look is watching kids who it’s clearly their first live theatre experience.

Emerjade Simms
It is amazing. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. And it’s seven or eight. You’re a prime Lion King age.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. Oh, it was amazing. I don’t even really, I don’t even remember the show. But I remember the feeling that I had, and it was so incredible.

Phil Rickaby
And at what point so you, you, you sort of felt drawn to the arts at that point? At what point? Did you start heading towards theatre and acting as a practice? Or was it? Like, did you just throw a whole lot at the artistic world at the beginning? And, like, what, what drew you to theatre?

Emerjade Simms
This is gonna sound really full of myself, but I was good at it.

Phil Rickaby
You know what that is? That is that is perfectly that doesn’t sound full of yourself to me. In fact, I, there’s, it’s refreshing to have to have somebody just say I was good at and also, when you were a kid, you know, you’re good at it.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, you can. It’s really funny because kids really have no filter. So they’re really, really honest in their feedback. And I never got any negative feedback about my acting skills when I was in elementary school. So I knew I was good at it.

That was that. But yeah,

Phil Rickaby
so so you just kept doing it. And at a certain point, you decided that this was going to be your career? And how did how did that come about that this, that you didn’t just pursue it as a hobby, but it was going to be like a real thing.

Emerjade Simms
I’m going to give you the sparknotes version of the story.

Phil Rickaby
Alright.

Emerjade Simms
So, grade five, I started playing piano, grade six, I continued piano but then also started with violin. grade seven, I moved to cello grade eight, I continued with cello. grade nine, I auditioned for an art school, I’m thinking that I was going to be a musician. Because I had played cello, surprisingly, did an audition with cello. When I was doing music audition, I auditioned with percussion because I was also really good on percussion. Not amazing, which I found out later, but good enough that I thought I could audition for this role. But to make sure that I I, I was in a in a place in my life at 13 years old, where I was being bullied a lot. So I really didn’t want to go to the same school that my believes were going to. So I knew that if I got into this art school, even though I beat having to commute an hour, and like every day to school and back, that I would at least be able to immerse myself in something that I loved, and be able to kind of reinvent what people saw me as. So when I auditioned for a total go School of the Arts. That is where I went. I auditioned for esa for music and music was my first choice. But I did a drama backup. And in the audition for drama. I felt like a lot of ease. And it was easy for me to to like do my monologue to take direction to improv. So when I got the results that I had gotten into the school, I actually I wasn’t shocked about getting in, I was shocked about where I was accepted, which was drama. Hmm. So that is kind of where it began. And so when I started high school, finally, when I was 14, I ended up like really immersing myself into drama because we had to because you have your two major you have your major that you have to be in you have to be in class every day for your major. So I’m eventually at some point in grade nine, I realised that the workload of being a drama student and also keeping up with with music was too much for me. So I ended up dropping piano and cello really early on, but then focused on drama a lot more. And then I found in grade 10 I found that acting well. I might, I might be putting myself in trouble here. Whatever. It’s fine.

Phil Rickaby
No. good. Do it. Do it.

Emerjade Simms
So my my teachers in school have a really terrible have habit of picking favourites. And the favouritism was really, really geared towards, towards the white men, of course. And and everyone like I I was a speck of pepper in a sea of salt. So people kind of had this expectation of me in school that I didn’t fit into they expected like someone who wasn’t well spoken, they expected someone who was loud and could dance and all that stuff, which I like em and can do. But I’m also a multifaceted person who doesn’t always fall into that depending on my mood. So, basically, in grade 10, when I realised that the favouritism was causing me to lose hope, in regards to an acting career, I decided that I would take up learning what backstage was all about. So then I got really, really good at being a stage manager and a lighting operator and a sound operator. And I was really, I took to it like it was nothing. So grade 11. Um, that is when our technical director passed away. And so for a few weeks, I was called upon quite a bit to be the person who would run our theatre. And it was a big responsibility. But I realised that I was fine under the pressure and it was good for me. So when we get to grade 12, when we’re deciding when what we’re going to do for post secondary, or if we’re going to do post secondary, I was really confused. But right at that point in grade 12, as well was when we also got a new drama teacher. His name is Mr. Black, Darren black. If you’re listening, I love you. You’re great. So, Darren, because he was new, he didn’t know any of the acting capabilities of anyone in the class. And so he wasn’t judging anyone from what he had already known. He was judging people from what he was like from what they gave immediately. And so he wanted to see every single person act. And so for some people, they had already given up and they were just like, I know, I’m not going to be an actor. So like, I’ll just give up. But for me, I had not totally given up on acting. But I knew that I had to, like, do my assignments well, and like, with the roles that he assigned me had to perform them well. So after our I think it was our class show, I believe it was tough. By What’s his name? Ah, what’s his name? George Walker? Yes, yeah. Tough. I played Jill. And we had like this whole fight scene. And I was in this the show with someone who really didn’t like me and kind of treated me bad. Let’s just say that. And I got to beat him up on stage. And it was great.

It wasn’t a real beat up. But it was good enough for me.

Phil Rickaby
I know, sometimes a stage combat beat up can be just as satisfying.

Emerjade Simms
It was super satisfying, because no one left harmed, but I felt vindicated. So after that point, when he realised that I was a good actor, then he showed that he was really proud of me. And he gave me confidence to like, maybe pursue acting. And I was like, oh, wow, I hadn’t thought about this as a possibility for a few years, but maybe I will. So I applied to schools, I got in two schools. And then I had to make a choice of staying in Toronto and going to Ryerson for acting or production, or going to Windsor for acting. And then I got put on the waitlist for Windsor, but then they accepted me. So then it was like, a choice. And then I made it and I went to Windsor. So it was like a whole ordeal of getting to training again, and falling in love with acting again. And to be honest, it’s still a journey of falling in love with acting.

Phil Rickaby
Do you do you still find that that? are you falling in and out of love with acting?

Emerjade Simms
Well, yes, because um, I think for me personally, it depends on the space that the director or production team creates. Hmm. So based on the project, I can fall in love or I can fall out of love. And then that kind of eye, it also reminds me how much that acting is such a job. And it’s very much business, even though we’re creating magic, but it reminds me of just like the, the business side and the work side of acting.

Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
When you came out of the the Windsor programme, did you feel like you were in love with theatre again? Or, or? Or where were you on that love hate relationship?

Emerjade Simms
To be honest, for the whole of my fourth graduating year, I, I didn’t think there was going to be work for me at all. Because, again, I was a speck of pepper in a sea of salt. And I kind of knew what what odds I was up against in regards to theatre and it’s not a net not being diverse. So when I came out of the programme, I, I expected that I would struggle quite a bit and then I like within maybe a year, I’d have to quit and find something else to do. But I was really lucky that theatre Ontario, theatre Ontario happened in the January and it gave me a lot more confidence about my potential coming into the theatre world in Toronto. So after I performed a theatre, Ontario, my agent came up to me immediately, who would who would turn out to be my agent came up to me immediately, and was like, did you submit to us yet, okay, because you’re great. And you should submit and came up, like, found me in the crowd. And I was like, standing with people. And he, like, interrupted those people and like, handed his card just to me. I was like, oh, okay,

Phil Rickaby
cool. That’s awesome. That is awesome.

Emerjade Simms
It was super, it was like flattering. And I didn’t think that anyone was really going to be paying attention to me. And I was, I was seen, and it was great. And right afterwards, I also got an like, when we were on the bus back to Windsor, I got an email from Philip Aiken, who was the ad of obsidian at the time, and said that he saw my work and he would like to talk to me for a tea if I was available. And like, just like those two occurrences happening in less than 24 hours happening within the span of five hours actually, all kind of gave me confidence that, that I, I needed to actually pursue acting, because if they the whole reason why I wanted to, here we go, the whole reason why I wanted to go into acting in the first place was because I wanted to see people like me being represented everywhere. And if I didn’t see those people then I needed to become that person. So that is why I decided to pursue acting. So theatre Ontario happening really kind of was a spark under my butt. And then I made it happen and so when I graduated and came back to Toronto, things were weird because I was like moving back into my home permanently and being this like new adult who like needed to get a job but also be at auditions and stuff. And it was a an adjustment period but it luckily didn’t take very long because my agents kind of really took me under their wing and taught me the way and immediately I I kind of started soaring within a few months and it was really gratifying having like gone from people are not paying attention to me literally at all. I’m literally in the background to I’m in the foreground now and now you have to pay attention.

Phil Rickaby
It sounds like you you your your agent was the perfect agent for you coming out of theatre school because I think some agents bring somebody in and they expect them to know the shit.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And they penalise that person for not knowing the shit when How could they

Emerjade Simms
right you know,

Phil Rickaby
and you found just the right person to sort of help you along and and tell you the things that you need to know and and rate.

Emerjade Simms
They were really patient with me as Cuz asked a lot of silly questions, and they made me feel like they weren’t silly questions at all looking back I cringe but i’m i’m good now.

Phil Rickaby
But I mean, I mean, it’s like, it’s it’s the we use the word ignorance, but that’s not what I mean it’s the ignorance of not knowing, right, like, yeah, how can you know, the things that you don’t know and you have to be brave enough to ask otherwise, you’re stuck in, you know, not knowing you’re just faking it.

Emerjade Simms
Absolutely. Especially theatre school doesn’t really set you up to know how the actual theatre world works. So it’s super different. And definitely a thing a lot of my colleagues have agreed with me on that, like, doesn’t set you up for the real world at all.

Phil Rickaby
A lot of schools don’t even bother telling you about the business of acting and don’t have a course in it. And so, it’s like, we’re going to teach you all this great stuff about acting now going out into the world that you know nothing about and good luck.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, and they they throw you into the literal ocean with your hands bound and expect you to swim.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, exactly. Um, now, when you were at the the theatre, Ontario, generals, I don’t think they call them the generals anyway, doing the auditions. That’s when they bring all the theatre schools together. Yeah. And everybody just sort of auditions, were you still a speck of pepper in a sea of salt.

Emerjade Simms
Um, I was amongst a few specks of pepper, but still very much a sea of salt.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm. I think back to my own my own years in theatre school, and there were when in my first year there were there were there were two black brothers who joined the programme and they didn’t last six months. And then the year after me, there was a one black kid who managed to get through the whole the whole thing. But like, the year before me was was very white in the years after me were very white. And I think that’s, that is a theatre school trait and people like Tanisha, Tate and other other teachers of colour, and they’re they’re trying to push more for schools to take that white bias out. Yeah. And so that so that, I think, because we have to change the way that that both the theatre schools and the theatres, look at colour and remove the white defaults that they seem to have and start to, to make our stages look more like the world around us, especially in a place like Toronto.

Emerjade Simms
I think that was the issue with the favouritism, that happened in my schooling, because, like, all of my, like, all of my instructors across the board were white people, and didn’t know they didn’t know how to interact with me and those so apparent in who they decided they wanted to put their focus on when really like I if you gave me the chance, I am an incredible storyteller, but you’re just not used to hearing a story in from my body.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm.

Emerjade Simms
So yeah, it’s the so my, my graduating class was 20 people and I was the only person of colour. The class that came after me was all white. I believe the class after that, maybe had two or three people of colour. And then after that was one person, and this year is two or two or three people. So they didn’t get like a lot better. But it wasn’t just like not a lot of we ended up coming together. And the fact that all of us could find each other. Because there were so few of us was saying something. And yeah, so they didn’t. Theatre School didn’t get much better after I left, but I think they are trying to make an effort. I will say that, but I think in making the effort on their end, I think people of colour and like bipoc, specifically, black and indigenous folks are really discouraged from like entering theatre or acting programmes, because they’re already so, so underrepresented. And so it becomes when you when you’re like when you operate in a body that’s racialized in society, and you’re looked down upon in society already. Then when you want to pursue something like acting and you have a spotlight on you, it becomes very uncomfortable. And I some people really don’t want to take on the work that comes with that. Just want to live their lives and I completely, absolutely 100% respect that because, like we must protect ourselves. But I think that works against Theatre School sometimes because the people don’t want to audition. But it also reflects badly upon the theatre school because the theatre school should be working harder to show that their environment is, is inclusive and safe for these people to train. So it’s a lot of moving parts, I would say.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, there are definitely a lot of moving parts. And and I can imagine that that there is like, if you’re looking at theatre schools, and all of their promotional material is a sea of white people. Oh, here’s why people in the players white pilling people in a play. Here’s why people in a play you except for the one token that they put on their advertising? Of course, it’s the same guy, it’s the same guy, um, that you sort of must wonder like, what would it what is it going to be like, in this place surrounded by just white people?

Emerjade Simms
The answer is terrible. Yeah,

let’s just say that, in regards to the racial movement that’s happening now a lot of people are really behind. And these are, these are things that I was hip to when I was literally a teenager, so people are really behind. But I’m also thankful for this time, because as much as they’re behind, at least, they’re now aware sort of a little bit and trying to work on not being so far behind, which I appreciate because then I it actually lessens the amount of time that I have to work on teaching people in spaces and increases the time that we can just be working.

Phil Rickaby
It is interesting because just like you were saying about the time to breathe into the time to to sit and just sort of be with yourself. theatres are often on that treadmill of production constantly. And that’s almost being a an excuse for not doing the work for not doing what needs to be done to to to remove their white default and to bring bipoc people to bring black people indigenous people more into their shows on a on a regular basis. So that now they’ve they’ve had like, they can’t use that excuse. They have nothing but the time. And there are people holding them to account in a way that I don’t think they were before.

Emerjade Simms
Exactly all eyes are on them right now to the leaders that they are supposed to be.

Phil Rickaby
Um, we there was the the the Twitter conversation of the Twitter hashtag in, in the dressing room. Yeah. And were Did you did you participate in them?

Emerjade Simms
I didn’t put any stories up. Because, um, I think I simply, my brain is so wonderful to me, but also terrible. I think I’ve repressed a lot of those memories, if they if I did have negative experiences, so I wouldn’t be able to recount them well enough, unless they were like, really overtly racist and terrible, and really made me question my worth. So I don’t really remember those instances to be quite honest. They’re they’re somewhere in like, the back of my filing cabinet in my brain. But I then if they were triggered, that I could remember it, but I don’t actually.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm. It’s it’s, again, I think that’s one of those conversations that happened and, you know, kudos to Stratford for facing their deficiencies and giving over the Stratford Twitter account to, to the black cast members. And, and, and, and, and enabling that conversation and encouraging it. It does still, there is still I think, I think I was talking to, to AB Smith. And and you know, there’s a lot of work to do, and everybody’s got a lot of work to do. And it’s one thing to put out a statement. It’s another thing to actually do the work. One is easy, and one takes a long term commitment and lots of work and willpower.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. And it also takes like taking a step back. And I don’t think a lot of people are ready to do that. Because that affects their their money and their livelihoods. Yeah, and I think a lot of people aren’t ready to do that.

Phil Rickaby
No, no, it’s I mean, it’s, quote unquote, it’s dangerous. It’s Yeah, and it takes it means that you have to reckon with things that make you uncomfortable and goddamnit if there’s one thing white people don’t like it’s feeling uncomfortable.

Emerjade Simms
Yes.

Phil Rickaby
So you mentioned off the top that you were starting a yoga practice. Yes. This new is this, like something you’ve dabbled in before? Is this something that’s that’s pandemic new,

Emerjade Simms
and it’s it’s kind of new. So in theatres training there there is like there are elements of yoga that come into like your physical training. But like you wouldn’t be able to name them as yoga because it’s just like all smorgasbord of work. So, in this new pandemic practice, I guess, yes, it’s new and pandemic, but I’ve been realising that a lot of the positions that I’m learning, I’m like, Oh, I know what this is. I just didn’t have a name for it. So um, yeah, it’s been, it’s been new for the last like, I’ve been in it for like a week. And it’s been very helpful. Because I’ve lost a lot of muscle, because I haven’t really been doing much. But I, I feel the need to build it back. So here I am.

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know about you. But six months is a long time for sitting on the couch and watching Netflix and eating snacks. So there’s not a lot of opportunity. Those those activities are not known for building muscle. In March, were you working on anything at the time when all of this started?

Emerjade Simms
Ah, so the government, okay, the government, the government,

Phil Rickaby
The governmet. Okay.

Emerjade Simms
The schools had been on strike for a while, and nothing was really going to get any better. So I was supposed to be in YPT show called Blue Planet, but then it Oh,

Phil Rickaby
my god, no, sorry. I hear you’re in a YPT show. And I already know where this is going.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. Yeah. So Blue Planet got cancelled. And then two weeks later, we were in lockdown by the time that everything wrapped up with cancelling the show. So Wow, it would have been cancelled either way to be on Yeah. I don’t know if I was sad, or that it got cancelled because of striking or if it got if it was going to be cancelled because of COVID. So

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know. Because it seems to me like if that it, you would have gotten some more performances in if it hadn’t been cancelled for striking. And at least COVID. You could have been like, Well, everybody is doing this.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, we would have been in I think the first few weeks of rehearsal. Had it not. Okay. Okay. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. And then and then, like, it’s, it’s such a position that everybody finds themselves in of like, Okay, so now what did, were you? Because you mentioned moving home? were you living at home? Were you like, what was your? Did you have roommates? What was that situation? Like?

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, so I live at home with my mom. Um, don’t be sad. And you don’t have to say anything about this next part. But my father passed away in October. So we were kind of dealing with like, closing everything down for him and closing his accounts and everything. So we were like, kind of going through a grieving process and moving all of his stuff out or into corners or into boxes or giving them away. So the whole so from basically October 2019, till I would even say, up until February March. Kind of was a blur. A lot of things happened. And I, I am really tired. I was really tired. During that point. Magic was a lot.

Phil Rickaby
Well, I would like to just say, just say that I’m sorry for your loss. And that’s all I’ll say about it. Thank you a lot of it. But, um, and then going home and dealing with with the lockdown. I mean, you were saying like, like, the quiet and the the stillness but. But how has that been? Aside from the yoga? How have you been occupying yourself?

Emerjade Simms
Um, a lot of time spent on the internet? A lot of time.

Phil Rickaby
I know that feeling. And it stresses me out so much sometimes that I’m like, I think I just I just want to delete the internet someday. Yeah,

Emerjade Simms
absolutely. And it sometimes becomes really overwhelming, taking in all of that information for a number of hours. So then I ended up just like passing out at really random hours. And now I don’t have much of a sleep schedule at all. And that’s okay. I actually go to bed like, six in the morning. Hmm. And that’s kind of been my regular schedule. But it’s been pretty consistent. So I guess I do have a sleep schedule. It’s just an a sleep schedule. That doesn’t really work for the real world. But what is this?

Phil Rickaby
What is the real world? What is time? What is the real world What is this sleep schedule? It is a it’s a pandemic sleep schedule.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. You know, and ever. I it’s working for me.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, that’s that’s the important thing at this point. For a lot of people and it’s just like, what can you do that that like what can you do? If it’s going to bed at six in the morning? That’s But, yeah, um, do you have you? Have you felt any kind of creative spark? Or? Or like, what’s what’s, oh, tell me tell me

Emerjade Simms
not even a little bit. And it’s no, because, um, people have asked me to do creative things. And I’m, I personally, I just, I don’t have a personal spark to create from my own brain and from my own body. But if people give me a script, and they need it read, I can do that no problem if people want me to, like, create a thing, and they give me a base of what to create it on. Like I can manoeuvre enough that if you give me roughly what you need, I can kind of figure it out. But like a spark from myself within me for my own head, it is not I don’t think it’s going to happen. If we’re still in lockdown I, I’ve pretty much completely lost inspiration. But it’s not an aside way. It’s just an A, I, I don’t have the energy to do that. Because I’m using my energy to survive right now.

Phil Rickaby
That is completely understandable. 100% I used to when this whole thing started. And there were those people who were like, if you don’t come out of the pandemic with a new skill or a new project, then the problem was never time. I was like, shut up. Please. This is a pandemic. This is not like vacation time. I am too stressed. I am too busy Doom scrolling on my phone to worry about like some creative project.

Emerjade Simms
Yes. I mean, I bought a mixer. So I guess baking has been like a new thing that I picked up.

Phil Rickaby
That counts that counts. What have you have you? Have you baked anything interesting, or just like snacks?

Emerjade Simms
Just like the basic banana breads and cookies and that’s it. But its been fun.

Phil Rickaby
know what that is? That is? As far as I’m concerned. That’s that’s pandemic baking right there. Just whatever you need to get through.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, I really like my mixer. It’s really

Phil Rickaby
nice. Nice Is it is it is like it’s a Is it like a heavy duty mixer? Is it like fancy? Like, it’s like high end? Or is it

Emerjade Simms
it’s an Oscar. So it’s like a step down from a KitchenAid kitchen.

Phil Rickaby
Right?

Emerjade Simms
So but it’s like, pretty much built very similarly. Not like half the price. And I really like mine.

Phil Rickaby
Nice. Nice.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And you know, it’s funny because there’s, there’s, there’s, like I’m, I have, in the last little while started to feel the ebb and flow of creativity. I have like little, little little bits of it. But then I, you know, we’ve hit like, six months of this, this situation. And I definitely find myself hitting a point of like, Well, whatever that was, that’s gone. For now, because that’s six months of this is like way too much for my brain.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. I fully agree. I actually like wrote a song at the beginning of pandemic, and then never performed it just wrote it down and then close the book.

Phil Rickaby
Hmm. Has music been a thing that you continued? Because we mentioned that as part of your your your your, your your School of the Arts audition? But has music been something you’ve continued to do? Or is did you leave it entirely after that?

Emerjade Simms
I pretty much entirely left it. If you ask me to sight read, I definitely cannot anymore. But I still own a piano. I’m looking at it right now. They’re collecting dust sometimes. But I’ll go and dust her off sometimes and tickle the keys and then turn her off. And I Oh, no ukulele? Do I know how to play it? Well, no, but it’s there if I need it. But pretty much music has taken not even a backburner. It’s just not in there. But it is it like so because music is like how I survive. But play is not as important anymore.

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know. I think that there’s something to be said for the ukulele that you can use. Like, you could pick it up, strum it a few times. feel good about it. You don’t even have to play it. Well, you can just sort of like it’s there. And you can get some joy from like, Ah, that is a G chord. I’m a genius.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, and actually, I picked the saddest story. I picked my ukulele up she was in my shoes in my closet on the top shelf, and I opened her case and she was murdered. She know him. And I was like, I haven’t touched you in two years. How could you possibly be broken? Literally. I have not. Nothing is touched you so Daisy How to death. Then I had to buy her sister Juniper to feel better but Jennifer has been she’s been very nice and she’s been also chilling. But I played with her for like a few days and then I put her down again but I really needed to have the ukulele for if I got that creative burst at all I need to be able to exercise it.

Phil Rickaby
Absolutely, absolutely. Um, I want in the in the last little while has been giving you joy to get through the day.

Emerjade Simms
Ah,

giving me joy to get through the day. You know, what if it’s not enough to get you through the day from hour to hour is good enough?

something sometimes it’s food. Okay. Like sometimes my like, I know that there’s like yummy food in my fridge. So then it motivates me to get up and go make it and go eat it. Sometimes it’s friendship, smile, like, get on my phone and like text, my friends. Sometimes it’s television. Oh, Lovecraft country. Every week. I look forward to Lovecraft country.

Phil Rickaby
See, that’s one of those shows that everybody’s been raving about. And I don’t have HBO. So I’m like, how do we get this show? And I know there’s some less than legal ways to hold of it. But yeah,

Emerjade Simms
just wait until all of it comes out and then get you’re like, forget it.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Okay. Yeah. It’s really nothing but good about it. Okay. Okay. Amazing. It’s okay. It goes on the list.

Emerjade Simms
As someone who is a really big fraidy cat. And I do get very scared super easily. Like a lot of my friends can tell you I am really jumpy. like super jumpy. I love this show so much. Huh? It’s incredible. Huh?

Phil Rickaby
interesting guh -. the fascinating thing about about this show is that it’s it’s it’s taking inspiration from a horribly horribly racist white writer.

Emerjade Simms
Yes. I love that.

Phil Rickaby
And creating a show featuring black actors telling black stories.

Emerjade Simms
Yes. Isn’t that like the best FU

Phil Rickaby
that is the best fuck you in the world. And it’s amazing. And that’s one of the reasons been on my list of like, I need to get this but it just haven’t. You know, I think you’re right. Wait for the show to finish and get that crave trial.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, it’s so worth it. And I cannot wait for what they do. Because I’m so invested. And it’s it’s so intricate. And there are so many like little small plot points that are like playing that, that you have to pay attention to, to be able to get through like the other episodes, and it’s just, I’m shaking. I’m

Phil Rickaby
okay, okay. That’s good. You mentioned uh, connecting with friends. Um, I know for me, I’ve the beginning. It was like, I need to do video chat with all my friends. And that lasted about a week. And yeah, it’s so tiring. Have you just been like sticking with texts and phone calls? or How have you been able manage been managing to maintain those those distant friendships.

Emerjade Simms
So on occasion, I will just end up doing a zoom call, or I’ll FaceTime or like call them randomly see if they pick up. But basically, it’s been messaging. Um, I waited a really, really, really long, long time to go and see my best friend in person. Because she was like the only one who I really missed and would risk getting sick for so I did. And she had gotten her covered results back saying that she was negative anyway, so I knew if it if anyone was getting anyone sick, it would have been me getting her sick. So I i i’ve been sceptical and very cautious of meeting up with people. But I have safely, mostly outside except for Fatimah suffer team. I love you. Hey. But, yeah, maintaining friendship has mostly been done through a computer or phones. Mm

Phil Rickaby
hmm. Yeah. I think there’s definitely a lot of that going on. I have done a couple of distance friend meetups, but there’s just it feels not right.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah. And I I’m very much – one of my love languages. Oh, let’s get deep. My love languages is physical touch. So I show my affection through like hugging and hugging really tight and back rubbing. So if I can’t do that with my friends, and it feels like we should have just done this through the phone anyway. Yeah, you’re right in front of me and I can’t touch you, then. I don’t want I don’t want it. But see people in person it has, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Phil Rickaby
No, I definitely feel that because i’ve you know, you see people and see some really good friends who normally you would give that big hug to. And you’re like, Hello, and you give a little wave and you maybe like tap elbows or whatever. And that’s

Emerjade Simms
I’m a big fan of touch.

Phil Rickaby
I love the foot touch because I also feel a little weird about the elbow when we’re supposed to cough into our elbow. Yeah, the foot touches is a good, safe, distant thing. But again, I’d much rather give those friends a hug.

Emerjade Simms
Yeah, absolutely. You’re making me sad.

Phil Rickaby
I’m sorry, we’ll change the subject, because we’re just sort of drawing to a close is there? As we I know, I didn’t want to go there. Because the question is, like, as you look ahead, and God, I don’t want to talk about looking ahead right now, at the world of theatre or anything like that. It just seems so distant? Yes. distant and also depressing. Um, is there this is going to be one of those, like, who wants to think about this? But if this goes on for another couple of months, what do you think? Or even longer, like in two months? How How do you feel like you What do you think you will be thinking about doing with the future? Or will you be waiting out the pandemic? Like, what do you think you will do?

Emerjade Simms
In in regards to theatre?

Phil Rickaby
Yeah.

Emerjade Simms
Ah, well, besides Wait,

I think I’ll try to, I’ll try my best to consume theatre. So for example, this is like, the best part of summer, but I Alfonsin The park was put on, and I really loved that show. And I was able to sit outside in the grass and watch the show. And it was like the first theatre thing that had opened since we shut down, right. And it was so refreshing to just like, sit and get lost in a story for a bit. And so that magic is it’s still palpable, and still there. But with the months getting colder, I know that we won’t be able to do stuff outside. And I know that people are probably likely very much going to try to put things online for consumption. So even though we’re not going to be sitting in the darkness together alone, we can still get lost in the stories that people are telling. And I think that’s helpful. And I don’t mind waiting a little bit longer to come back to theatre, if it means that everyone is going to be safe and healthy and Okay, and ready and capable to do their jobs. So like, even if it takes another year, I’m not saying it will, but if it does, I’m like, it’s sad, and it’s painful. But if it means that everyone’s going to be okay, then I don’t mind.

Phil Rickaby
100% I’m not in a rush to get back into the theatre. I am I am I the thought of, of that moment when the lights go down, and a ripple of coughs, runs through the audience for meaning now, and I do not relish that thought. And I think yeah, I mean, the I, I’m happy that there are people who are finding ways to tell stories, even if it’s just even if it’s on digital, as long as we’re still terrible, telling stories and sharing them, then there’s there’s hope for the theatre in the future.

Emerjade Simms
And I think it’s exciting because it’s a different format than we’re used to. So we’re we’re forced to readjust like the way that we see theatre as well. And I think that’s refreshing. And then I think it will definitely inform the way that we do Theatre in the future and, and how we can possibly even make it more accessible for people who can’t even make their way to the theatre.

Phil Rickaby
Well, that’s the thing that’s kind of exciting. I was talking with a, some some folks from from the east coast and out in New Brunswick and and they were talking about how one of their smaller theatres there, they’ve outfitted it they managed to get their, their Fringe Festival with some in person theatre but they also have a three cameras set up in the theatre, but they were both, like, broadcasting over the Internet that people could like buy like a cheaper ticket and still watch the live show. And they’re thinking about this as potentially something they keep doing, even after the pandemic.

Emerjade Simms
Absolutely.

Phil Rickaby
And I think that’s amazing like stretching out and like sharing theatre with people that aren’t in your neighbourhood and aren’t in the in the same location. And people who can’t get to the theatre, that’s such a, I think it’s something we should be looking at doing.

Emerjade Simms
And, and if we’re going to be telling people stories, we should be able to reach some of the people whose stories were telling. Absolutely. Sometimes they can’t even make their way to the theatre. So that’s the thing.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Emerjade, thank you so much for for having this conversation with me.

Emerjade Simms
Thank you for asking me. It’s been it’s been a really nice time.